Tuesday, December 08, 2015

'You ain't no Muslim bruv'

The above words have been eagerly seized on by those who are trying to ignore that it is orthodox Islam that lies behind the recent spate of terrorist attacks by Muslims. The words were uttered by a bystander while the most recent terrorist attacker was being confronted by police.  The attacker was an African with an "Arabic" accent.

I initially assumed that the words were from somebody who knew the assailant personally and who knew the assailant as having only marginal contact with Islam.  And I still think that is most likely.

The idea that the words are a precise theological statement is certainly absurd.  At best it represents the opinion of someone with no authority to pronounce on what is Islamic.  And yet it has been taken as if it were.

We know that there are occasional voices from the Muslim world that condemn terrorist attacks but they are few and far between. Muslim mullahs and muftis normally refuse to condemn such attacks.    And the refusals are few and far between for a good reason: Attacks on infidels are not only permitted by the Koran but commanded by it.  Start reading at Sura 9 if you doubt it. The opinion of some presumably black bystander in London is no match for the Koran as an Islamic authority.

One understands that the willingly blind seize any crumb of comfort in a world made very dangerous by enthusiasts for Islam but closing your eyes is not a good way to keep yourself safe.

Report of the incident below:

The defiant words shouted by an East Londoner at the knifeman involved in the terror attack at Leytonstone tube station last night have become an internet sensation.

'You ain't no Muslim bruv' hashtag has swept through social media, described as the 'perfect' London response to the atrocity.

During footage recorded of the standoff between the knifeman and police, the witness can be heard repeatedly yelling: 'You ain't no Muslim bruv!'

The powerful statement has been widely quoted on social media with many people saying the man's actions represented only the work of a killer rather than someone showing their support for Syria.

The knifeman allegedly slashed two people at the tube station, shouting, 'this is for Syria' before being Tasered by police in what has been described by Scotland Yard as a terrorism attack.



Barack mentions the M-word. He's even decided that America is exceptional after all

On Sunday, December 6, President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office on the steps his government is taking to  keep the American people safe from Jihadis.  Some excerpts below. He's now convinced that there is a threat from Muslim terrorists and that they are a bad lot. He has yet to acknowledge the widespread approval of their actions in the Muslim world, however.  He thinks that Muslims who don't wage jihad are on our side!  That they might lie low simply for fear of the consequences has apparently not occurred to him

The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know. The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife. So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home. But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West. They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs. So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.

Over the last few years, however, the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase. As we’ve become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society. It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino. And as groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers.

We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional.



Mass Surveillance and the Politics of Fear

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Arkansas) has put forward a bill to allow the National Security Agency to sidestep protections in the USA Freedom Act.  The bill would allow the NSA to keep the metadata records they illegally obtained through warrantless mass surveillance

There will always be those eager to scare us into giving away our liberties.

As Senator Tom Cotton is working to reverse some of the important surveillance reforms in the USA Freedom Act, establishment Republicans are lining up to defend his actions. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, responding to a FreedomWorks press release, accuses the liberty wing of the Republican Party of “preying on the public’s fears.”

To be sure, there is plenty of fear mongering going on, but Ms. Rubin is a little muddled if she thinks it’s coming from the people speaking out against the surveillance state. On the contrary, fear has always been used to justify more intrusion into the private lives of ordinary citizens. I’m hard pressed to think of a time when the opposite was the case.

We have been told, and continue to be told, that we need to surrender our liberties in order to remain safe. If we don’t act, swiftly and decisively, the terrorists will kill us all, and then what use will our privacy be? We can worry about freedom when things are not so dangerous.

It’s such a compelling narrative that it can be effectively sold to the American people, again and again, even when the proposed action doesn’t actually solve any existing problem. The illusion of doing something, anything, is enough to make many people give up their most basic rights. Add to this the fact that the promised “less dangerous time” never really happens. That is, it does happen, but the powers that be refuse to acknowledge it.

If you actually take the time to look at the numbers, crime rates and deaths by war have continually declined. Even the trend in mass shootings has remained essentially flat. We’re much less likely to die from violence now than we were in the fabled domestic utopia of the 1950s, but you’d never know it from watching the 24-hour news networks.

In the case of the NSA’s bulk data collection program, Ms. Rubin’s own paper reported that the administration can’t point to the program’s use to stop any terrorist attacks. There have also been reports from industry insiders that the indiscriminate, bulk collection of data is actually a hindrance to the detection of actual threats, since it consumes so many of these agencies’ finite resources.

Edward Snowden explained this problem succinctly: “We miss attacks, we miss leads, and investigations fail because when the government is doing its ‘collect it all,’ where we’re watching everybody, we’re not seeing anything with specificity because it is impossible to keep an eye on all of your targets.”

So, not only does the program Tom Cotton wants to preserve not catch terrorists, it hurts our ability to do so. People are, justifiably, scared, and the appearance of doing something is better than the appearance of doing nothing, so we end up with incredibly misguided proposals like this one.

It’s not “preying on the public’s fears” to ask that we be smart about national security, while still taking care to preserve the essential liberties enshrined in our Constitution. What does constitute preying on fear is constantly telling people that they are going to be killed unless they surrender their privacy into the government’s hands. Franklin Roosevelt was on to something when he said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, or rather, that our fear can be used as a weapon to make us give up everything we hold dear.

There will always be dangers in the world we have to guard against. There will always be an excuse to trade liberty for the illusion of security. But only by resisting that temptation can we hope to preserve anything like a free society.



The Internet sales tax is not just about taxes

As Black Friday gave way to Cyber Monday, the familiar complaints from physical retailers about the perils of online competition once more began to surface. At issue is the way internet sales, or more specifically remote sales, are taxed, with many retailers calling for new legislation to empower states to collect more taxes from online sellers.

Discussions about the proposed internet sales tax usually devolve rather quickly into accusations that one side is simply selfish: they want to shop online tax free, and they don’t care about a level playing field for brick-and-mortar stores. The American lust for low prices, they argue, is trumping notions of fairness and equity. Hence, the Marketplace Fairness Act and its similar derivative, the Remote Transactions Parity Act.

Don’t be fooled by the words “fairness” and “parity” in the titles of these bills. While useful as a marketing tool, this language is wildly inaccurate. Far from creating tax equality, this legislation would grant unprecedented new taxing powers to the states.

This is where the claims of greediness on the part of consumers fall apart. Opposition to the Internet sales tax is not about the money, although that’s part of it. More broadly, it’s about keeping government power within its proper limits. A little explanation will illustrate the point more clearly.

Currently, states can collect sales taxes on businesses with a physical presence within their borders. This includes brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online sellers with distribution centers, warehouses, or physical storefronts in the state. In this way, physical and online stores are already treated equally by the tax code. However, if a consumer in one state orders something from a store located in a different state, the destination state is not required to collect taxes on the sale.

The reason for this is simple: Florida’s government doesn’t have the right to reach across the country to California and demand that sellers in the latter state do the dirty work of tax collection on its behalf. The whole point of designing the United States as a series of separate units instead of as one unified whole was to preserve independence in policy, recognizing that the same rules were not appropriate for different areas of the country with different needs. The states were also intended to be “laboratories of democracy” where different ideas could be tried alongside one another to see what works best.

All these benefits of federalism are lost if state governments can start extending their taxing and regulatory powers across borders. Currently, a low sales tax rate has been a tool used by states to attract businesses. The Internet sales tax makes this competition irrelevant, and state legislatures lose the incentive to strive for lower rates.

Additionally, the proposed law would require small businesses to keep track of the various tax jurisdictions across the country, in order to accurately collect taxes for wherever consumers might be located. At last count there were around 9,600 of these tax jurisdictions. For a seller like Amazon, which has distribution centers pretty much everywhere anyway, this is no big deal, but imagine what a burden this would be on a site like eBay, which coordinates thousands of individual buyers and sellers, each of which would have to master the administration of these tax laws simply to effect a single sale. This is clearly not a matter of fairness, but of squeezing out small sellers in order to protect big ones who can afford to comply with the new rules.

The Internet sales tax is a danger to e-commerce in general, but more importantly, it is a danger to the liberty and independence of the states. The precedent of allowing tax collectors to wander outside their jurisdictions and practice their reviled profession anywhere they please has profound implications for the future of our country, and whether the model of federalism so cherished by its founders will be abandoned once and for all.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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